Students at Kent College in Kent welcome Lauren James (back, right) of UMCOR and Sarah Sandsted, who visited with them on the third anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti to talk about recovery and development in the Caribbean nation.
Rev. Tom Quenet/MCB
By Lauren James*
March 1, 2013—When The Methodist Church in Britain (MCB) invited me last January to come and speak with students in the United Kingdom about recovery in Haiti since the horrific earthquake there three years ago, I readily accepted.
MCB and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which I serve as church liaison in Haiti, have been close partners together with the Methodist Church of Haiti (referred to by its French acronym, EMH) in the fields of relief, recovery, and development since the earthquake on January 12, 2010.
My visit to the UK would be a great opportunity to share that collaborative work with students in the Methodist school system and with Methodist congregations, who are so far from the Caribbean and might never have a chance to visit the region.
When I got to Britain on January 8, the weather was very cold, and during my weeklong visit it even snowed! It was definitely different weather than in Haiti!
The goal of my visit was to affirm the work that is happening in Haiti as we mark three years of recovery and development, and to remind the faithful of the MCB that although Haiti may have faded from global headlines, good work continues there.
Sarah Sandsted, former United Methodist Volunteers in Mission team coordinator in Haiti, was my co-presenter at three Methodist schools in England: Kent College in Kent (an all-girls school), Kent College in Canterbury, and The Leys School in Cambridge.
All of the students, who were between 12 and 18 years old, had been studying Haiti, earthquakes, and development topics in their classes. Our presentation, which included photos, information, and discussion, brought firsthand experience into the classroom. Students were very engaged and asked a lot of questions
They were especially interested to understand how people in Haiti lived after the earthquake and how their lives were changing for the better. Sarah and I supplied real-life examples of a child’s typical day in Haiti to help the students better understand the struggles that many Haitians go through every day.
We also talked about how support from MCB and UMCOR, such as that for vocational education and for programs that lift up young women, provide ways for Haitians to improve their livelihoods.
Since 2010, UMCOR and EMH have partnered with MCB on many projects. Together we have:
- distributed solar kits to 1,000 residents on La Gonave
- built new latrines at an EMH school in Dondon, outside of Cap Haitien
- supported a computer-based learning program for women in three schools
- provided emergency support for teacher salaries at New College Bird, the EMH’s flagship school, immediately after the earthquake; and
- shared support for 33 university scholarships.
MCB also sponsored the reconstruction of an EMH school at Leveque, paid for its furnishings, and funded teacher salaries.
The Rev. Tom Quenet of MCB has participated in EMH roundtables and advised the church over the past three years. Last September, we welcomed two missionaries from the UK, Dr. John and Sharon Harbottle, who will serve three years in Haiti. John advises EMH in health matters and Sharon works with EMH to provide Christian education programs throughout EMH’s circuits.
The questions students asked Sarah and me were quite thoughtful, even though none of the students had ever spent time in Haiti. Hopefully, our visit has inspired some of these young people to reflect on world issues, explore participation in an overseas mission trip, or consider a career in the church or in the field of humanitarian work.
Your gift to Haiti Response, UMCOR Advance #418325, supports ongoing recovery and development work in Haiti.
*Lauren James has served as UMCOR’s church liaison in Haiti since June 2010.